DOVER – 12-year-old Cal Ripken all-star team of the Exeter Youth Baseball League have punched their ticket to next week’s New Hampshire Cal Ripken 70-foot State Tournament with a 20-0 win over Roger Allen on Monday in a District 7/8 elimination game at Beckwith Park.
“It was an important victory for us,” said Exeter coach Matt Lanigra. “In the last two tournaments we’ve seen mixed results from the players. We really emphasized teamwork. There are a lot of individual games, but baseball is not an individual sport, it is a team sport. So we really focused on the teamwork aspect. Every time we applaud, 99% of the time, it’s “teamwork,” to emphasize. After our win tonight we changed a bit and said “Team Exeter” to celebrate, of course, that we are a team from Exeter. “
Exeter will then meet Seacoast on Tuesday evening at 8 a.m. The winner will move on to Wednesday and face the loser of Tuesday’s opener between Dover and Nashua in the winner’s final.
Dover and Nashua are both unbeaten in the 10-team double-elimination tournament. The championship game is scheduled for Thursday.
The remaining four teams have all qualified for the state tournament which begins Monday in Keene. Other teams in the tournament included Bow, Concord, Kearsage Valley, Hollis-Brookline and Hudson.
Exeter opened the tournament on Friday with a 3-2 victory over Hudson.
“We had a hard time not belittling ourselves when we were making bad plays,” Lanigra added. “We have players who are really proud and take it upon themselves to maybe do a little too much. When they have a bad strike at the bat, a bad play, or a bad pitcher’s performance, they internalize it and it gets them down. So we tried to really focus on staying positive and turning that frustration into positive energy and not negative energy. “
The positive energy could be seen throughout the match, as well as in the post-match squad.
“It was a huge win for us, we needed it,” Lanigra said. “We had a bad game (Sunday) against a very good team from Dover. We really needed this victory. We had to put our sticks on the road. It’s something that has been a struggle for us so far this season. Our pitch was really solid. Our defensive play, for the most part, has been really solid. But our bats haven’t really shown what they can do.
The sticks clicked from the jump as Exeter scored seven runs in the first inning, all coming with two outs.
“Today we were beating really well from top to bottom so that was important to us,” said Lanigra.
Exeter’s seven-point first inning was highlighted by Gavin Mulrey’s imposing three-point home run over the left-field fence.
“It was unexpected,” Mulrey said. “I was just trying to get a normal base hit to drive in a race or two. I was just trying to drive Kenneth (Money), he was third. I was just trying to get a base hit in the middle. I thought it was a pop-out, but he kept traveling. It surprised me, for sure. “
Mulrey’s home run was his first among the stars, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It’s amazing,” Mulrey said. “Going to the States is a huge confidence boost.”
Exeter added five runs in the second inning and eight more in the fourth.
“Today we narrowly failed,” said Roger Allen coach Nate Drapeau. “Exeter are a great team, they’re aggressive and their pitch was great.”
Lanigra said he and the team sat down after Sunday’s 8-1 loss to Dover and spoke about their goals for the summer.
“Our first goal was to get to the United States, and our second goal is to get to the championship game (here),” Lanigra said. “Beyond that we’ll be scoring new goals as we go, but we’ll take it one step at a time. We hit our first goal tonight.
Seacoast came on with a 10-0 win over Bow in Monday’s game opener. Seacoast scored four runs in the first set, two in the second, one in the third and three in the fourth. The game was called off after four innings due to the 10-point rule.
Conall Ciaschini won the full game, allowing just three hits and striking out one. Branston Larck and Bryce Pinsonnault each had two hits for Seacoast, while Dermott McKinnon had two RBIs.
Dom Mancini (two runs, hit), Kieran McKinnon (run), Drew Gagalis (run), Braeden O’Hara (hit, run, RBI), Justin Coates (hit, run, RBI) and Ciaschini (run) all set the pace the Seaside Crime.
“We have a big game against Seacoast, and it will be a huge challenge,” said Lanigra. “We are no strangers to Seacoast. We fight and it’s a back and forth matter. They win one, we win one. We’re looking to avenge a (league game) loss to Seacoast in last year’s Kittredge tournament in Rochester – they beat us pretty well. We hope for a little playback.